Catfishing on CatNet

Naomi Kritzer

Book - 2019

Because her mother is always on the move, sixteen-year-old Steph hasn't lived anywhere longer than six months. Her only constant is an online community called CatNet, a social media site where users upload cat pictures and the admin is CheshireCat, a sentient AI who loves cat pictures. When a threat from Steph's past catches up to her and CheshireCat's existence is discovered, it's up to Steph and her friends, both online and IRL, to save them. A near-future thriller about o...nline privacy and out-of-control technology and the importance of making connections in an increasingly fragmented society.

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Subjects
Genres
Thrillers (Fiction)
Published
New York : Tor Teen, a Tom Doherty Associates Book 2019.
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
304 pages ; 22 cm
ISBN
9781250165084
1250165083
Main Author
Naomi Kritzer (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Steph's life isn't easy. Her mother keeps moving her from town to town every few months to evade her father, who may or may not be a dangerous kidnapper. Meanwhile, Steph finds friendship in an online forum for cat-lovers, known as CatNet. But after she moves to New Coburg and manages to find some real-life friends, she gets involved in a hacking prank that goes awry. In the aftermath, Steph begins to find out more and more disturbing information about her past, and her father just might have enough information to track down her online friends—and maybe even her. Although the narrative style seems to struggle with understanding what it wants to be (the AI's introspection is a bit too on the nose), Kritzer manages to keep the plot from going entirely over the top. In her first foray into YA literature, she explores social anxieties around technology and automation, artificial intelligence, and gender and sexuality, all while also providing readers with a captivating and mysterious near-future thriller. Grades 9-12. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

In this thoughtful near-future techno-thriller, a sentient AI that secretly runs an online community dedicated to animal pictures befriends a lonely young woman who's spent her life fleeing her violent stalker father. Unable to make any lasting connections in meatspace, Steph, 16, has found a sense of community and acceptance on CatNet, unaware that the admin, CheshireCat, isn't human. When she and her mother move again, this time to a tiny Wisconsin town, Steph doesn't expect to be there long, and she definitely doesn't expect to make friends, but ends up with kind and witty IRL companions, such as artsy Rachel. After attempting to help the solitary teen, CheshireCat reveals their true nature, then goes offline, propelling Steph and her friends to uncover the dark secret lurking in her family's past. Alongside the uplifting message about inclusivity, diversity, and found family—characters of various ethnicities identify as gay, bisexual, nonbinary, asexual, and still exploring—Kritzer's take on a benevolent AI is both whimsical and poignant. An entertaining, heart-filled exploration of today's online existence and privacy concerns. Ages 12–up. (Nov.) Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.

Review by School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 8 Up—Steph can't remember the last time she lived somewhere more than a few months. Her only solace is the online society CatNet where people chat and post pictures of animals. However, one of her seemingly innocent CatNet acquaintances, CheshireCat, knows everything about Steph and the online community. They know where everyone lives, what their hobbies are, and can probably even hack into their computers. CheshireCat is an empathetic cognizant AI, and when a harmless prank in the real world leads Steph down a dangerous rabbit hole, CheshireCat may be the only friend able to help. Kritzer envisions a not-to-distant future in which coding and ethics are combined to create an AI with attachments to humans. Providing a new twist on AI's, the promising setup initially falls short. Lacking underlying tension, Steph's introduction to a new town moves sluggishly, though alternating chapters between Steph, CheshireCat, and the CatNet group chat help pick up the pace as the perspectives switch more frequently later on. Feeling quite human at times, the sentient AI is easily lovable and fits in perfectly with their human friends. Aside from a few obvious mistakes the characters make when dealing with tracking and hacking, readers will root for Steph and her inclusive CatNet cohort to succeed. VERDICT An intriguing concept that is a good pick for larger libraries and readers captivated with unique AI tales.—Emily Walker, Lisle Library District, IL Copyright 2019 School Library Journal.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Because her mother is always on the move, sixteen-year-old Steph hasn't lived anywhere longer than six months. Her only constant is an online community called CatNet, a social media site where users upload cat pictures and the admin is CheshireCat, a sentient AI who loves cat pictures. When a threat from Steph's past catches up to her and CheshireCat's existence is discovered, it's up to Steph and her friends, both online and IRL, to save them. A near-future thriller about online privacy and out-of-control technology and the importance of making connections in an increasingly fragmented society.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

When outsiders threaten the administrator for the CatNet online community, a sentient AI who loves cat pictures, and a threat from her past catches up to her, Steph and her friends--both online and in real life--must save her.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

The award-winning author of the “Cat Pictures Please” short story follows the experiences of a girl who discovers that the leader of her online community is an artificial intelligence that is being threatened by outsiders. Simultaneous eBook.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

LODESTAR AWARD WINNER FOR BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK From Hugo and Locus Award-winning author Naomi Kritzer, Catfishing on CatNet is a thought-provoking near future YA thriller that could not be more timely as it explores issues of online privacy, artificial intelligence, and the power and perils of social networks.A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice/Staff PickA Kirkus Reviews Best BookA Junior Library Guild SelectionAn Edgar Award Winner for Best Young Adult NovelA Minnesota Book Award Winner for Best Young Adult NovelAn Andre Norton Nebula Award FinalistAn ITW Thriller Award for Best YA Novel NomineeA Lodestar Award Winner for Best Young Adult Book “A pure delight...that’s as tender and funny as it is gripping and fast-paced. This book is perfect. From the believable teenage voices to the shockingly effective thriller plot, it swings effortlessly from charming humor to visceral terror, grounding it all in beautiful friendships, budding romance, and radical acceptance.” —The New York TimesBecause her mom is always on the move, Steph hasn’t lived anyplace longer than six months. Her only constant is an online community called CatNet—a social media site where users upload cat pictures—a place she knows she is welcome. What Steph doesn’t know is that the admin of the site, CheshireCat, is a sentient A.I. When a threat from Steph’s past catches up to her and ChesireCat’s existence is discovered by outsiders, it’s up to Steph and her friends, both online and IRL, to save her.“Alongside the uplifting message about inclusivity, diversity, and found family—characters of various ethnicities identify as gay, bisexual, nonbinary, asexual, and still exploring—Kritzer’s take on a benevolent AI is both whimsical and poignant. An entertaining, heart-filled exploration of today’s online existence and privacy concerns.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review